International reactions to the Ghouta chemical attack
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International reactions to the 2013 Ghouta attacks refers to condemnations of the international community following the 2013 Ghouta attacks, which involved a chemical weapons attack that occurred in Damascus during the Syrian civil war. United States President Barack Obama said the U.S. military should strike targets in Syria to retaliate for the government's purported use of chemical weapons, a proposal possibly supported by French President François Hollande, but opposed by the Syrian government's closest allies, Russia and Iran. The Arab League stated it would support military action against Syria in the event of U.N. support, though members Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Tunisia and Algeria opposed intervention.
On 14 September the US and Russia announced an agreement on the Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons and Syria acceded to the Chemical Weapons Convention. The UNSC also passed United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118.
Reaction to attacks
- Arab League – The Arab League released a statement on 27 August stating that, while they did find Syria to be responsible for chemical attacks against its citizens, it would not support military interventions of any sort.
- UNASUR – South American leaders condemned violence and use of chemical weapons in Syria and demanded that the Syrian government to allow investigations on the opposition's allegations regarding the use of chemical weapons in the attacks.
- United Nations – The United Kingdom called an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council on 21 August. Western nations pushed for a strongly worded resolution which would have asked for the UN to "urgently take the steps necessary for today's attack to be investigated by the UN mission," however, due to objections from Russia and China, the emergent statement was a more reticently-worded demand for "clarity" regarding the incident. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the report of chemical attacks "needs to be investigated without delay". On the day of agreement for UN onsite investigations a senior U.S. official[who?] stated that "the belated decision by the regime to grant access to the UN team is too late to be credible," and that "there is very little doubt at this point that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in this incident." On 26 August the inspectors reached some of sites, but after an hour and a half were ordered by the Syrian government to return due to safety concerns and the inspectors could not reach the six main sites. According to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem the reason for this was that when the investigators arrived at the affected regions "they faced gunshots and failed to continue their visit, because the armed groups have not agreed among each other on ensuring the team’s security". The UNSC also passed United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118.
- Albania – Outgoing Prime Minister Sali Berisha and Foreign Minister Aldo Bumçi blamed the Syrian government for the attacks and pledged their government's support for any NATO action against Syria.
- Australia – Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said it appeared that chemical weapons were used "in large scale against a civilian population." He said his country, as president of the UN Security Council, will push for UN weapons inspectors to be allowed access to the sites where chemical weapons were purportedly used. He said that "the burden of proof lies with the Syrian regime," while he also voiced caution on possible international action, bringing up the spectre of Australian involvement in the Iraq War on the belief that the Iraqi government was pursuing weapons of mass destruction, he said after speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama on 27 August that the international community has a responsibility to act, comparing the crisis in Syria to the Rwandan Genocide and the Srebrenica massacre.
- Austria – In a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger called reports that the Syrian Army used chemical weapons "extremely worrying", saying chemical weapons use would constitute a "glaring crime of the Assad regime". Spindelegger also called for a UN investigation into the reports.
- Brazil – Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio Patriota called for an independent investigation into allegations that chemical weapons were used. He suggested any international action should wait until the chemical attacks are confirmed.
- Canada – On 27 August, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had a telephone conversation with U.S. President Barack Obama in which both agreed that a "firm response" against the Syrian government. Foreign Minister John Baird issued a statement that demanded the Syrian government allow UN weapons inspectors to examine the sites. At the 2013 G-20 Saint Petersburg summit, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made it clear that a military strike is necessary against Syria. On 7 September, Prime Minister Harper urged the international community to take military action against Syria citing that the use of chemical weapons sets a dangerous precedent.
- Chile – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the attacks and demanded that the Syrian government give UN weapons inspectors access to the sites where chemical attacks were reported.
- China – Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hong Lei, said that China is firmly opposed to the use of chemical weapons by any party in Syria. He affirmed that China supports the UN Secretariat in carrying out independent, objective, impartial and professional investigation on the alleged use of chemical weapons in accordance with relevant UN resolutions. Lei said China hopes and believes that the team can have full consultation with the Syrian government to ensure smooth investigation. Finally, Lei said that China wants to call on all sides to work together to hold the second Geneva Conference on Syria as soon as possible and launch an inclusive political transition process.
- Colombia – The Government of Colombia, through a Ministry of Foreign Affairs press release, expressed its "profound concern due to the recent situations in the Arab Republic of Syria, energetically condemns the killings of innocent civilians, and makes a call to establish a political dialogue to end the violence and the abuse of human rights." Colombia also was noted by its domestic media that the government does not support a military intervention, in Syria, as Colombia expressed its support to the United Nations' efforts to dialogue an end to the conflict. Colombia in the same context manifested "its most vehement rejection towards the use of chemical weapons, regardless of who used them. Its use constitutes to war crimes, therefore we must assume as an international community the responsibility that this crimes do not go unpunished; we reiterate that there are international courts that must take suit in this role." Colombia, likewise, also recognized "the Mission of Verification of the United Nations, and urges the Security Council to take action according to the results of the mission in order to maintain peace and international security."
- Ecuador – An unnamed government agency expressed rejection to manipulating information on the use of chemical weapons for justifying military action, calling instead for offering facilitations to the UN investigation team to punish the perpetrators of the possible chemical attack.
- Egypt – The Egyptian government strongly rejected military intervention in Syria. Interim President Adly Mansour told a US Congress delegation that Egypt does not support an US decision on a military attack on Syria taken individually, denouncing the US's insistence on acting "without the approval of the UN security council and without commitment to international legitimacy.” Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said that Egypt condemns the use of chemical weapons regardless of whoever uses them but added that Egypt also rejects any foreign military intervention in Syria and insisted that political dialogue was the only way out of the crisis. "Egypt rejects military intervention in Syria, as we believe a political solution is the only way out for the crisis there. Egypt supports the Geneva Two talks," said FM Fahmy in a press conference held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Cairo.
- France – The Foreign Ministry said it did not have independent confirmation that an attack took place as opposition claimed, but it said those responsible for the chemical weapons attack "will be held accountable." They also called for the investigation of the use of chemical weapons in the attacks. France[who?] has also said that the international community should respond to this incident "with force.". On 25 August, France declared it had "no doubt" Damascus was behind the chemical attacks. President François Hollande said on 27 August that "France is ready to punish those who took the heinous decision to gas innocents".
- Germany – Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said "Germany will be among those [countries] that consider it right for there to be consequences". An unnamed government agency condemned the attacks and said that the attacks "must be punished" if verified.
- Holy See – Pope Francis referred to the "terrible images" coming out of Syria and called on the international community "to be more sensitive to this tragic situation and make every effort to help the beloved Syrian nation find a solution" to the civil war. The ambassador to the UN Silvano Tomasi urged caution and said: "What immediate interest would the government in Damascus have in causing such a tragedy? ... Who does this inhuman crime really benefit?"
- India – India[who?] is waiting for the UN investigation into the chemical attack on 21 August, to better assess the origin of the attack, while describing it as a "grave concern. We stress that the international legal norm against the use of chemical weapons anywhere and by anyone must not be breached."
- Indonesia – Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said the international community "must make sure that perpetrators of such inhumane acts are punished accordingly. If [Syria’s regime] has actually used chemical weapons, it marks the lowest point in the conflict."
- Iran – President Hassan Rouhani condemned the attack without accusing either the government or the opposition of perpetrating it. Rouhani announced on his official Twitter feed that "Iran gives notice to international community to use all its might to prevent use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world, [especially] in Syria". Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the Syrian government had assured Iran that it did not use "such inhumane weapons." He blamed the attack on the opposition, saying: "The international community must show a serious reaction to the use of chemical weapons by the terrorists in Syria and condemn this move." According to Abbas Araqchi from the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Russia submitted proof to the U.N. Security Council showing that chemical weapons were used by the opposition and not by the Administration.
- On 1 September former Iranian president Akbar Rafsanjani stated that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own people.
- Iraq – In the wake of the alleged chemical attacks, an unnamed government agency has called for continued UN investigation and opposed any further militarisation of the conflict.
- Ireland – The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said that Ireland's position on Syria remained unchanged, reiterating the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Éamon Gilmore's statement in March 2013 that "further militarisation of the crisis must be avoided and a political solution found instead."
- Israel – Minister of Defense Moshe Ya'alon claimed that the Syrian government has lost control of Syria and is present in only forty percent of the country. Describing the civil war as a life and death struggle between Alawites and Sunnis, Ya'alon said there was no end in sight to the conflict. Minister of Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz said Israeli intelligence assessments indicated that "chemical weapons were used, and they were not used for the first time," before adding "nothing practical, significant, has been done in the last two years in order to stop the continuing massacre of civilians carried out by the Assad regime. I think that the investigation of the United Nations is a joke."
- Italy – Foreign Minister Emma Bonino called the attack a "war crime," but that Italy will not participate in international action without authorisation from the United Nations Security Council.
- Japan – According to Japanese sources, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed the conflict in Syria with United States President Barack Obama at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg on 5 September and said he understands Obama's desire to strike Syria. Abe indicated he agreed with Obama that Assad was behind the attacks.
- Jordan – Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour reiterated that Jordan will not be used to launch a preemptive strike against the Syrian government. Ensour said that the 900 US troops stationed in Jordan are not part of a plan to wage war on Syria, and that the government is against any foreign intervention in Syria.
- Lebanon – Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said he did not support the idea of strikes on Syria in response to the reported chemical attacks saying that "I don't think this action would serve peace, stability and security in the region."
- Malaysia – Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said that if the attacks did take place, the government condemns them. "Malaysia calls upon those responsible for such irresponsible and inhuman acts to be brought to justice" and that chemical weapons inspectors should be allowed to inspect the sites.
- New Zealand – Prime Minister John Key said the attacks were horrific and urged the UN Security Council to work to resolve the crisis, although he acknowledged the United States and other countries may act outside the UN mandate due to Russian opposition on the Security Council. Key declined to comment on what role, if any, New Zealand may play in any international action unsanctioned by the UN.
- Pakistan – Pakistan has strongly urged the United States and western powers to avoid use of military force in Syria. In a statement, Foreign Office spokesperson Aizaz Chaudhry maintained that Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected. He expressed deep concerns over the ongoing violence and threat of possible American military action looming large over already embattled Syria. Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry also strongly condemned the alleged use of chemical weapons of Syrian government, "All the engaged parties should adopt course of dialogue instead of violence and peaceful resolution of the conflict should be sought out", the Foreign Office spokesperson quoted. The National Security Adviser, Sartaj Aziz, who was briefing the Parliament over this issue said that: "Pakistan condemns the use of chemical weapons, but it does not support aerial strikes which the U.S. proposes as it will only make the situation "more concerning". Aziz strongly exhorted to the U.S and UK at the Parliament that "We should wait for the UN mission’s report on Syria."
- Palau - In a letter addressed to U.S. President Barack Obama, Palauan President Tommy Remengesau expressed Palau's full support for a U.S. strike on Syria. Remengesau also blamed the Syrian government of committing crimes against humanity.
- Qatar – Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah said he holds the UN Security Council "solely responsible for what happened" while blaming the Syrian government for using "internationally prohibited weaponry" in the attack, which he said "crossed all lines and violated all rights".
- Russia – Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich the attack was a clear "provocation planned in advance. The fact that agenda-driven regional mass media have begun an aggressive attack at once, as if on command, laying all the responsibility on the government, draws attention. The fact that the criminal action near Damascus was carried out just when the mission of UN experts to investigate the statements on possible chemical weapons use there has successfully begun its work in Syria points to this."
- South Korea – The Foreign Ministry said, "our government strongly condemns such brutal acts of crime", denouncing the Syrian government for its alleged use of chemical weapons. South Korea also called for the United States to act strongly against the Assad regime, fearing that failing to respond to an alleged use of chemical weapons will leave bad example and idea for its enemy, North Korea.
- Sweden – Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said on his blog that it was a gas attack and that a UN team must investigate immediately. "Trying to evaluate the information available, I find it difficult to come to any other conclusion than that a lethal chemical substance has been used in the attack against opposition-controlled territory that was carried out by regime forces during the night between Tuesday and Wednesday."  He added that he believes that the Syrian president helped coordinate the attacks.
- Turkey – President Abdullah Gül said that: "Those who have perpetrated these massacres will be remembered with curse forever. Moreover, they will have to pay for their deeds before international law."  The Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement that read such an attack "can only be defined as barbarism and atrocity. The people who are responsible for this atrocity are the administrators of the regime and a ravenous group aiming at preserving their power at all costs. These people killing their own people and destroying Syria will answer for their deeds sooner or later. In the face of this massacre, which violates the international law and constitutes a serious crime against humanity. Turkey calls on the UN Security Council to fulfill now its responsibilities stemming from the United Nations Charter."
- Ukraine – Minister of Foreign Affairs Leonid Kozhara said chemical weapons were "probably" used. He said Kiev seeks a resolution to the Syrian conflict through "political-legal, international and diplomatic means" and suggested the UN Security Council is the appropriate arbiter of the conflict under international law.
- United Kingdom – Foreign Secretary William Hague called on the Syrian government to give access to the UN team to investigate the attacks. "I am deeply concerned by reports that hundreds of people, including children, have been killed in airstrikes and a chemical weapons attack on rebel-held areas near Damascus. These reports are uncorroborated and we are urgently seeking more information. But it is clear that if they are verified, it would mark a shocking escalation in the use of chemical weapons in Syria." He added that he believes that the Syrian government carried out the attacks. Hague also later stated that diplomatic pressure on Syria had failed and that the UK, "the United States, [and] many other countries including France, are clear that we can't allow the idea in the 21st Century that chemical weapons can be used with impunity". A proposed 29 August 2013 parliamentary motion claimed that military strikes in response to the chemical weapons attacks would be legal if the strikes constituted humanitarian intervention. This motion failed to pass in the House of Commons 285-272 at a vote held 30 August 2013. By 3 September, newspapers were reporting that Prime Minister David Cameron was coming under increasing pressue to allow a revote following the publication of more compelling evidence of Syria's culpability. David Cameron subsequently said the UK would focus on providing humanitarian aid for refugees in Syria and neighbouring states, and encouraging other G20 countries to increase their relief efforts.
- United States – President Barack Obama referred to the incident as a "big event of grave concern." Secretary of State John Kerry stated on 26 August that it was "undeniable" that an "inexcusable" chemical attack occurred and suggested that the Obama administration believes the Syrian government was behind it. Kerry strongly condemned the attacks as a "moral obscenity" and warned "that this international norm cannot be violated without consequences". Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power wrote on Twitter that "Assad has used [chemical weapons] against civilians in violation of [international] norm."
- The U.S. stated it was "deeply concerned by reports that chemical weapons were used" and that officials were "working urgently to gather additional information. The United States strongly condemns any and all use of chemical weapons. Those responsible for the use of chemical weapons must be held accountable. Today, we are formally requesting that the United Nations urgently investigate this new allegation." On 22 August, the United States said they were unable to conclusively say that chemical weapons were used in the attack. Obama directed U.S. intelligence agencies to urgently help verify the allegations. On 27 August, U.S. and Israeli officials claimed they intercepted communications from Syrian officials that the government was responsible for the attack.
- Uruguay – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement that called the attacks "an act of barbarism" and reiterated its condemnation of the violence in Syria "by the conflicting parties."
- Venezuela – President Nicolás Maduro warned against possible U.S. intervention in Syria, which he said would break international law and called for peace and negotiations. He publicly doubted claims that the Syrian government carried out the chemical attack and said that the UN should be given time to investigate. "We reject war, we want peace," declared Maduro. He said Venezuela will work with the Union of South American Nations and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States "for the truth of the Syrian and Arab and Islamic peoples".
- Vietnam – Viet Nam is deeply concerned over the use of chemical weapons in Syria and strongly opposes to the action targeting civilians, said Vietnam Foreign Minister Spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi. “We strongly emphasize the necessity to abide by the International Chemical Weapons Convention and call upon related sides to exercise self-restraint and resolve the problem in a subjective and cautious manner, via peaceful solutions and in respect for international laws and the United Nations Charter,” said Mr. Nghi.
Potential military response
On 23 August, U.S. and European security sources made a preliminary assessment that chemical weapons were used by Syrian forces, likely with high-level approval from the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The sources cautioned that, due to the assessment being preliminary, they were still seeking conclusive proof, which could take days, weeks or even longer to gather. On 23 August, U.S. officials claimed that their intelligence detected activity at Syrian chemical weapons sites before the attack on 21 August. Foreign Policy magazine's The Cable, citing unnamed sources, reported that: "US intelligence services" intercepted communications, hours after an attack, between an official at the Syrian Ministry of Defence and the leader of a chemical weapons unit, demanding answers for a nerve agent strike. According to the report, American officials believed that the attacks were the work of Assad's regime based on the content of the calls, although they were unsure who ordered the attacks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told British Prime Minister David Cameron that there was no evidence that the chemical weapons were used by the Syrian regime. An Iranian Foreign Ministry official claimed that Russia submitted evidence to the U.N. Security Council, including satellite images, purporting to show that chemical weapons were used by the opposition and not by the Administration.
The government of the United Kingdom proposed military action, but decided it must be put to a vote in the House of Commons. On 30 August, British Members of Parliament voted against military action by a 285–272 margin citing concerns about the justification for military action. Although the Prime Minister does not need approval from Parliament to launch military action, David Cameron said he would abide by the will of lawmakers.
The United States reportedly planned to launch up to 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles against the Syrian army, but after several days of voicing public indecision over how to respond to the alleged chemical attacks, President Barack Obama said on 31 August that he would seek congressional authorisation before approving military action, although he thought that punitive strikes were warranted. The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against the Government of Syria to Respond to Use of Chemical Weapons (S.J.Res 21) on September 4, 2013, which would allow the president to take direct action for up to 90 days, but specifically forbidding putting "boots on the ground." However, a U.S. Department of Defense memorandum prepared in early 2012 estimated that "more than 75,000 ground troops" would be needed for the U.S. to forcibly gain control of the chemical weapons factories in Syria.
France, under President François Hollande, also considered military action, while the government of Turkey called for a more robust effort to not simply punish the Syrian government for the chemical attacks, but to remove Assad from power altogether.
Iran warned that strikes would be met with retaliation against Israel. French or U.S. action would reportedly be launched without approval from the UN Security Council. Russian officials argued international military action without UN authorisation would violate international law. China also warned against military intervention in Syria, saying that it would have "catastrophic consequences" for the entire region.
Former UN Inspector Hans Blix opined in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet that no one was going to act militarily and that the UN sanctions were toothless. The Swedish Defence Research Agency Middle East expert Magnus Norell says that "Taking things through the UN Security Council is just an excuse to not do something, because you know that a veto will be passed. ... It's clear that Assad doesn't care about the UN." 
Public opinion on intervention
Public opinion polls have consistently shown that most Americans do not support military intervention in Syria. A Huffington Post poll found that U.S. public support for military strikes in Syria increased from 19% to 25% after the attacks in Ghouta. An ABC News poll found that 50% of Americans oppose intervention, while 50% support it if it's described as cruise missiles being launched from a navy ship. A Pew poll finds that Americans oppose rather than support military intervention by a 48% to 29% margin. A NBC poll found the margin to be only 8%. A Reuters-Ipsos poll finds that 56% oppose intervention, while only 19% support it, A Washington Post-ABC poll finds that 59% of Americans oppose action in Syria. A Rasmussen poll finds that 37% of Americans support "increased military assistance to protect the citizens of Syria", while 40% "do not think the United States should get more involved militarily." Separately, most Americans don't know where Syria is, and only a slim majority of those polled at the department of defense know where Syria is.
Polls have found that most British and French also oppose strikes without U.N. approval; a parliamentary motion supporting military intervention failed in the British parliament on 31 August – making David Cameron the first British prime minister in over 150 years to be prevented from going to war by Parliament. UK government policy subsequently focused on providing humanitarian assistance inside Syria and to refugees in neighbouring countries.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said that "The use of force is lawful only when in exercise of self-defense, or when the Security Council approves such action." Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations and Arab League Special Envoy to Syria since August 2012, similarly stated "I think international law is clear on this. International law says that military action must be taken after a decision by the Security Council. ... certainly international law is very clear – the Security Council has to be brought in."
The United Kingdom government published its legal position regarding the legality of military action. This stated the UK is seeking a resolution of the United Nations Security Council which would, among other things, authorise member states to take measures that could include military action to protect civilians in Syria from the use of chemical weapons and prevent any future use of Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons. It went on to say that if a Security Council resolution is blocked, the UK would still be permitted under international law to take military action on humanitarian grounds, provided certain conditions are met; and all three conditions are clearly met in this case.
Members of the United States Congress, including Lynn Jenkins, stated that United States President Barack Obama required "consent from Congress as prescribed in the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973" to carry out military strikes in Syria. Obama announced on 31 August that he would seek congressional approval for military strikes, stating, "While I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective. We should have this debate." The United States Congress was on a recess at the time of the announcement, scheduled to return to session on 9 September.
In connection with an alleged Israeli strike in April 2013 on a Syrian chemical weapons site, US Ambassador to Israel Michael Oren said that removing chemical weapons by military force was potentially difficult: "... under international law, if you strike a chemical weapons base and there is collateral damage to civilians it is as if you, the attacker, used chemical weapons."
Military deployments in the region
The United States Navy deployed ships to the eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea in the days after the attacks. Initially five Arleigh Burke-class destroyers were deployed to the eastern Mediterranean: USS Barry, USS Stout, USS Ramage, USS Mahan, and USS Gravely. The USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group including the Ticonderoga-class cruisers USS Gettysburg and USS San Jacinto and the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Bulkeley and USS Mason transited the Suez Canal on 18 August on their way to the Indian Ocean, where they relived the USS Nimitz carrier strike group, which on 1 September moved into the Red Sea, placing them within easy deployment range of the eastern Mediterranean. The other ships in the Nimitz carrier strike group are the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Princeton and the three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Shoup, USS Stockdale, and USS William P. Lawrence.
The United Kingdom deployed a Royal Navy Trafalgar class submarine, equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles to the Mediterranean. On 29 August the Royal Air Force deployed six Typhoon fighter jets from RAF Coningsby in England to RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus as a precautionary measure. The Typhoon deployment followed the arrival of two Tristar air-to-air refuelling aircraft and one E3D Sentry airborne early warning and control aircraft at Akrotiri two days earlier. The Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Westminster, part of a larger Royal Navy battle group, was deployed to the Mediterranean for the annual exercise Cougar 13. The other ships in the battlegroup are the helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious, the amphibious transport dock ship HMS Bulwark, the frigate HMS Montrose and six Royal Fleet Auxiliary ships: RFA Lyme Bay, RFA Mounts Bay, RFA Cardigan Bay, RFA Fort Austin, RFA Fort Victoria and RFA Diligence. HMS Bulwark and the three Bay-class landing ships carry elements of the Royal Marines 3 Commando Brigade.
On 30 August the amphibious transport dock USS San Antonio arrived in the eastern Mediterranean to join the five destroyers on station there. The San Antonio carries elements of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. At the same time, the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge moved to the Red Sea with further elements of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
On 4 September the Italian Navy Horizon-class frigate Andrea Doria and the Maestrale-class frigate Maestrale left their homeport of Taranto and set sail for the eastern Mediterranean. Furthermore the Italian Navy Durand de la Penne-class destroyer Francesco Mimbelli and the Sauro-class submarine Salvatore Pelosi is currently deployed to the Ionian Sea.
Russia maintains a permanent naval facility in Tartus. On 5 September, several vessels were on their way to the Mediterranean including amphibious warfare ships Minsk, Novocherkassk and Nikolai Filchenkov; the reconnaissance ship Prirazovye along with the Slava-class cruiser Moskva and the Udaloy-class destroyer Admiral Panteleyev. In addition, the Kashin-class destroyer Smetlivy, the Nanuchka-class corvette Shtil and Tarantul-class corvette Ivanovets are scheduled to arrive by the end of September.
Chemical weapons UN plan
Following a suggestion from the US that the complete handover of Syrian chemical weapons within a week might be enough to avert military action, Russia and Syria began to pursue this potential diplomatic solution. On 10 September Syria said that it would be willing to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention, halt weapons production and allow UN inspectors access to its stockpiles. Joining the Convention would also imply a commitment to the destruction of its chemical weapons stocks. Debates began at the UN over the terms of a resolution regarding the issue. The US put on hold its attempt to gain Congressional authorization for military strikes, while stressing that the UN initiative could not be a mere delaying tactic. The US also said it would wait for the UN inspectors to report back.
Yochi Dreazen writing in Foreign Policy pointed out that implementation of such a plan would not be easy: "Taking control of Assad's enormous stores of the munitions would be difficult to do in the midst of a brutal civil war. Dozens of new facilities for destroying the weapons would have to be built from scratch or brought into the country from the U.S., and completing the job would potentially take a decade or more." The success of the plan would depend on Syria revealing 100% of its stockpile, much of which is mobile and spread across dozens of sites - and it would be difficult, particularly in civil war conditions, to verify that this had happened.
Syrian rebels responded negatively towards the plan, saying that it meant the Syrian government could escape punishment for its crimes. Selim Idris said that rebels would work with the inspectors, while Qassim Saadeddine said: "Let the Kerry-Lavrov plan go to hell. We reject it and we will not protect the inspectors or let them enter Syria." Idris also asserted that the government had begun moving chemical weapons out of the country, to Lebanon and Iraq.
Syrian conflict peace proposals
A pre-Geneva-II preparation meeting planned by senior US and Russian diplomats for 28 August 2013 in The Hague was postponed by the US Department of State because of "ongoing consultations" relating to the 21 August Ghouta attacks. A Department of State representative stated that the US "would work with Russia to reschedule [the] planned meeting and that the alleged chemical weapons attack demonstrated the need for a 'comprehensive and durable political solution'." On 6 September, US president Obama stated that he and Russian president Putin agreed that the "underlying conflict" in Syria could "only be resolved through a political transition as envisioned by the Geneva I and Geneva II process".
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